The Woman in Black at the Wallace Theater is scary good and a great time for anyone looking for a local fright.
The show is put on by actors Cory Lawson and Paul Kortemeier and directed by Zach Dailey.
The Woman in Black takes the audience through the story of Arthur Kipps, played by Lawson and then by Kortemeir in the play within the play.
Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House.
Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, “wreathed in fog and misery.” But, Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind the house’s sheltered windows.
The routine business trip Kipps anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images.
At first, the play draws its audience in with subtle humor. The audience becomes comfortable with the actors and the setting, where Kipps is insisting to get his story out through a theatrical performance, though his character obviously has no theatrical experience.
Instead, the character played by Kortemeier shows Kipps how the performance should be portrayed and comes to find himself haunted by Mrs. Drablow’s tragic experiences.
When the woman in black first appears in the theater, there are goose bumps and a sense of dread, knowing what is to come next isn’t going to be subtly humorous at all.
There are a few jumpy moments throughout the play, but for the most part, it’s the sense of dread and knowing that something about Mrs. Drablow’s house doesn’t sit right and there is a tragic story to be told about its past.
At the start of the play, Alycyn Keeling, executive director at the Wallace Theater welcomed guests and thanked them for attending the showing.
She told the audience that though the auditorium is still undergoing renovations, this process makes it the perfect setting for this particular play.
Lawson said the Wallace Theater has always been on his radar as a potential setting for a play, as he has led the Saturday Players at the Wallace Theater for two years now.
“I have always wanted to play the role and needed the opportunity, the first thing I thought of is this theater, The Woman in Black needs to happen here,” Lawson said.
Dailey said from a director’s perspective, the Wallace Theater is the perfect place for a play such as this, being nearly 100 years old. He even said most of the items on stage being used as props were already in the theater.
“Most of the stuff you see here has been on the stage, I just said let’s use it,” Dailey said.
Lawson said he is excited about the future at the Wallace Theater and said he and Keeling have been in talks about future performances.
“There are some ideas, I’m excited about it,” Lawson said.
Dailey commented on the current situation and performing during a global pandemic.
“What’s interesting about this play is doing it in times of COVID,” Dailey said.
He compared the woman in black to an infection, saying it works out for the times because no one wants to get near her or see her get near anyone.
“She’s like an infection,” Dailey said. “She infects people who come across her and they’re terrified to catch her…my creative impotence can’t separate from the times we are living in, it’s a big thing happening right now.”
The Wallace Theater took social distancing precautions at Saturday’s show and will continue to do so for shows scheduled Friday and Saturday.
Seating for these shows is limited and the Wallace is seating at less than 50 percent capacity. When purchasing tickets, the Wallace is asking guests to note the names of guests in their party and if they would like to be seated with guests in another specific party.
Venue seating is set in a cabaret-style, with tables similar to a restaurant set up. The Wallace will take drink and concession orders at guests’ tables and serve them at the table.
The Wallace staff asks anyone who purchases a ticket is not feeling well or has been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days to please protect their fellow audience members and share their tickets with someone else or reach out for a refund.
Because the lobby of the Wallace is small, staff asks that all audience members wear a mask for entry to the event and be considerate of others by practicing social distancing and taking precautions.
Tickets can be purchased online at wallacetheater.com/events. The next showing is Friday at 7:30 p.m. and a special late Halloween showing on Saturday at 9 p.m.